Summer is the season of travel and is often filled with vacations abroad or trips to exotic locales. And while it’s nice to go far away and recharge, you don’t always need a plane ride to transport you to a relaxing escape — especially when it comes to wine. Aside from the obvious enjoyment of wine tasting, vineyards can be an oasis in their own right — places to spend the day with friends and trade in the stresses of the week and city for beautiful views and worry-free weekend vibes. Luckily, New Yorkers don’t have to travel far as there are two major regions known for great wine and scenic landscapes. Located on both the northwestern and northeastern sides of the state, New York vineyards are the perfect weekend getaway to escape the daily hustle and bustle of city life.
If you’re new to the state’s wine scene, the first thing to decide when planning your trip is which of the two main regions to visit, the Finger Lakes or Long Island. Being on opposite sides of the state makes each area, and the nuances of the wine they produce, unique in the terroir and tastes. “From the maritime conditions in Long Island to the brisk air in the Finger Lakes, New York has a cool climate for vinticulture that is highly influenced by the surrounding bodies of water,” says Sam Filler, executive director of the New York Wine & Grape Foundation. “Within each region, these lakes and basins have moderating effects on the temperature that give the grapes distinct characteristics.”
Whether you’re looking for a weekend or day trip, a New York winery has a lot to offer. To help whittle down your choices, TZR compiled a list of some of the state’s best havens for tasting experiences. Read on to find a new destination to explore.
Finger Lakes Region
With a rich history in winemaking, the Finger Lakes is the most notable wine region of the state and a leading cool-climate wine-growing area in North America. “This region falls just below Lake Ontario and east of Lake Erie and is dully regulated by their environments,” says Filler. The deep and vast lakes provide an excellent source of glacial soils with abundant amounts of shale, sandstone, and limestone. Combined with the chilly air, this region is ideal for yielding top-notch cold-hardy varietals such as riesling, cab franc, merlot, and pinot noir.
But aside from the striking backdrop, the area is filled with other natural beauties to enjoy. “The Finger Lakes is home to some great national parks like Watkins Glen State Falls — a top tourism destination in the state — and beautiful natural waterfalls,” Filler says. With a drive that’s just under five hours from New York City, this region is the perfect weekend retreat.
Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard
If you really want to explore the range of upstate New York rieslings, make your way to Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard in the Seneca Lake winery. Best known for its exemplary varieties, you can spend the day tasting the span of the grapes’ characteristics that are enhanced by the region’s distinct terroir. However if riesling doesn’t do it for your palette, not to worry, the vineyard also produces additional whites, along with delicious reds, rosés, and sparkling wines.
Ravines Wine Cellars
Breathtaking lake views and spans of green vines make Ravines Wine Cellars a top choice when visiting the Finger Lakes region. But what is most loved about this vineyard is the unique food and wine-tasting experience. Where most wineries offer snacks and nibbles, Ravines delights guests with a selection of small plates, each curated to pair with their best sips. During the tasting, you’ll enjoy seasonal bites as the sommelier guides you through each wine. Just think of it as a flavorful lesson in winemaking.
Tucked away on the east side of Seneca Lake, Boundary Breaks is a fairly new vineyard that’s a tranquil haven for standout wines, sunset views, live music, and a rotating selection of cuisines by local food vendors. In short, it’s the essence of summer neatly packaged in a day-trip and it’s open daily with no reservations required. With that in mind, you’ll want to come early as spaces are on a first come first serve basis. But with a selection of wines ranging from a fruit-forward chardonnay and cab franc to a fresh yet dry rosé, it’s the perfect escape for a small group.
Located on the southeastern portion of the lake — where the micro-climate is the warmest of the region — Atwater’s location provides the ideal conditions for varietals not commonly grown upstate. This is particularly evident with their Chablis-style Chardonnay which is round yet enticing with savory herbaceous notes and hints of salinity, and their vibrant full-bodied merlot and cabernet blend. A great destination for beginner and seasoned palates alike, the tasting room is open daily and offers both classic and fun sips (like the lightly effervescent Bubble Riesling ) by the glass or bottle. Once you’ve found your favorite, make your way to the patio with one of their curated boards to soak up the last of the day.
Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery
It’s pretty safe to say that New York wine wouldn’t be where it is today without the efforts of Dr. Konstantin Frank. As a Ukrainian immigrant, he settled into the Finger Lakes and pioneered winemaking in an area that had been deemed unsuitable for growing due to its colder climates. Four generations later, the vineyard remains one of the most notable in the region and is well sought after for its classic dry riesling — a crisp sip of citrus zest, green apple, and mineral stoniness — and traditional Georgian amber wines.
Long Island Region
Located on the northeastern side of New York, the narrow stretch of land known as Long Island is dotted with wineries up and down its coast for good reason. With a moderate climate regulated by the surrounding body of water and a soil composition of sand and gravel, the region is known for its Bordeaux varietals and zesty yet mineral white wines.
But the area also has an array of beaches and parks, making it a go-to destination for day trips. “With a two-hour drive from New York City, the Long Island wine region is a multi-seasonal retreat that is especially beloved in the summer,” says Filler. “The North Fork area is also home to some great farms and restaurants that source directly from the area.”
Family-owned and operated, the Macari vineyards span 500 acres on the Mattituck waterfront with a magnificent view and fresh ocean air. Inside the modern tasting rooms, Macari offers a few experiences, such as their private rosé tasting lunch that feel luxe and chic. For a more casual excursion, make a reservation for the equally inviting summer tasting and explore why this vineyard's wines, like the tangy and berry-bright Sparkling Horses Petit Verdot, have gained a cult following across New York City.
As one of the oldest wineries in the area, Bedell has been championed for their wines. But after film producer Michael Lynne acquired the land in 2000, the vineyard has soared to new heights and is a must when visiting the Long Island coast. The restored barn tasting room is airy and light with towering white-framed walls and lush views of the surrounding land. But the picturesque scene is just the beginning as reservations aren't needed for tastings so you can pop in on a casual drive. Be sure to sample their fragrant white wines or one of their famous merlots as you peruse the owner’s exquisite contemporary art collection.
Known for the aesthetically pleasing bottles and range of rosés, which have been touted as “summer in a bottle,” Wölffer Estate is the vineyard to visit in the Hampton area. While there, you can stroll through the spacious and design-friendly tasting room and while sampling the beloved sparkling rosé. With a wide range of noteworthy wines, crisp ciders, spirits, and non-alcoholic beverages, Wölffer is the perfect location for a group of eclectic palates. Just be sure to make a reservation ahead of time.
Jamesport Vineyards is a father and son-founded winery tucked away in North Fork that has a laid-back vibe and an impressive selection of well-made hearty wines. Even better, you can stay on the property to properly enjoy the sights and tastes of the area. Book a room at the winery’s on-premise hotel, then stroll over to the spacious lawn where you can enjoy light fare and summer jazz concerts.
As a fairly new vineyard to the region, RGNY brings a unique perspective of winemaking that is rooted in the family’s Mexican. Their design-forward approach can be seen throughout their interesting selection of wines as much as it can in their signature tasting experiences. From creating your own blend to learning about the story behind their designs, there are a range of activities to enjoy that don’t necessarily revolve around drinking. But, because no vineyard tour would be complete without at least one tasting, the winery offers a weekend Mexican-style brunch to pair with their refreshing wines.
Despite being hidden on a rural road, Lieb is one of the region's notable wineries with two tasting rooms that speak to both traditional and new-age palates. Regardless of where your preferences lie, at each location, you’ll have the opportunity to sip through selected flights representing the island's terroir, curate and enjoy a tasty charcuterie board, and listen to live music. Open daily, reservations aren’t required but are suggested during the busy season to ensure your spot.